University of Miami Inter-American Law Review


1) Haiti did not agree to pay an indemnity to France in 1825 because it feared a war with its former colonial power. In 1814, France sent envoys to Haiti to demand that King Henry Christophe, who controlled the north of Haiti, and President Alexandre Pétion, who controlled the south and west, resubmit to French sovereignty. Christophe had that envoy arrested and jailed. Pétion, on the other hand, offered to pay an indemnity to France to compensate the former colonial property owners in return for France’s official recognition of Haiti’s independence.

2) Jean-Pierre Boyer succeeded Pétion as president of the Republic of Haiti in 1818 and of the whole of Haiti in 1820 after Christophe’s death by suicide. As had Pétion before him, Boyer consistently opposed all attempts by France to reimpose its sovereignty over Haiti. In 1824 he offered to pay an indemnity to France to compensate the former colonial property owners for the same reason his predecessor did in 1814. France finally did so in 1825.

3) The indemnity, which was fully paid-off in 1883 under Salomon, was not the primary cause of Haiti’s inability to develop its economy. It was instead due to the inability of the successive post-independent governments to expropriate the land-owning/possessing peasant farmers to recreate the large-scale plantation system of the colonial era, on the one hand, and the constant internecine conflicts among factions of the dominant classes to control the state and its prebends.

4) Between 1875 and 1910, successive governments borrowed more money than they had previously, none of which was related to the indemnity. These debts, which amounted to 113,156,500 francs and were more egregious than the indemnity, were not paid off until 1961, and opened the way for direct foreign capital investment in production and for foreign banks to reestablish control over the national economy since the U.S. occupation from 1915-1934.